NEW YORK — Johan Santana is done for the year, and to say he had an up-and-down season would be an understatement of Cy Young proportions.
Explaining that their ace is worn out from two years of rehabilitation and maintenance, the New York Mets placed Santana on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with inflammation in his lower back and said he is not expected to pitch again in 2012.
Doctors recommended rest, but not surgery.
"I wanted to keep pitching. I felt that I could pitch. But at the same time, I'm listening to them," Santana said. "They said that everything that I have done has been a lot. At some point I have to take some rest. At this point I think I agree with everything and we've just got to make sure we stay healthy and look forward to next year."
The 33-year-old Santana missed last season following major shoulder surgery in September 2010. He got off to a strong start this year and pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history June 1 against St. Louis. But he threw a career-high 134 pitches in that game and is 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA since.
"I don't have any second thoughts about the way it was handled," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "This has not been a shoulder issue. So from that standpoint, I just don't see a direct correlation."
The tailspin got especially ugly after Chicago Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson stepped on Santana's foot on a play at first base July 6. Beginning with that outing, Santana went 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA in his final five outings — becoming the first Mets pitcher to give up at least six runs in five consecutive starts.
The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner was 6-4 with a 2.76 ERA through June but ended up 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA. He threw 117 innings in 21 starts.
A few weeks after Johnson stepped on his foot, Santana was placed on the DL with a sprained right ankle. He was sidelined for three weeks, a period of rest that was also intended to recharge his surgically repaired shoulder.
But in his first game back, Santana lasted only 1 1-3 innings against Atlanta — the worst start of his career. He said Wednesday that he's been feeling tightness in his back for a couple of weeks, but it really stiffened up on him in his most recent outing last Friday at Washington.
He had an MRI on Tuesday that revealed the inflammation and Santana was prescribed rest, medication and intermittent exercise. He was placed on the DL retroactive to Saturday and New York will bring up right-hander Collin McHugh from the minors to start in Santana's place Thursday against Colorado.
Now, the left-hander will look toward 2013, the final guaranteed season of his $137.5 million, six-year contract.
"I'm very positive that everything's going to be fine," Santana said. "It's too bad that I have to go down like this, but it's part of the game."